In 1994 Robert Kraft inherited a marquee QB - a No. 1 overall draft pick in Drew Bledsoe - which helped to jumpstart his new stewardship of the Patriots franchise.
Perhaps in 2021, Robert’s son Jonathan will have his own No. 1 pick QB to carry The Patriot Way into a new era as he fully takes the reins of the team.
So how does Bill Belichick get the Krafts their new franchise QB?
Well, Belichick appears to be considering dialing up the Painter Plan in 2020 to replace the TB12 Method.
You remember Curtis Painter, don’t you? The primary signal-caller for the 2011 Indianapolis Colts, who finished with a 2-14 record?
Painter - along with Kerry Collins and Dan Orlovsky - combined to go 0-13 to start that season, rendering the ‘Suck for (Andrew) Luck’ strategy a success as Peyton Manning readied for his free agency tour.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Belichick would never lose on purpose, right?
Well, you’re right, he wouldn’t outright tank a season.
But Belichick also robotically does what’s best for the football team. And the Painter Plan achieves that directive by maximizing odds for title success.
If incumbent Jarrett Stidham proves that he can play, then Bill has discovered he can build around ‘Stid’ and he might just win another AFC East crown this year on the strength of his defense and special teams play to go with an offense that improves and evolves with the season.
On the other hand, if Stidham sinks instead of swims, it’ll take the Patriots down with him in a Titanic-like descent to the depths of the standings.
By not drafting a quarterback in this year’s draft, Belichick ensured that Stidham will get a fair shake. By not drafting a receiver or offensive tackle, he ensured that if Stidham is subpar the offense will be putrid.
If Stidham stinks, the 2020 Pats offense might be 15 points-per-game bad, or worse. After all, the schedule is very difficult, with both Super Bowl participants Kansas City and San Francisco on the slate, plus Baltimore and trips to Seattle, Houston and twice to L.A.
Could the team’s record drop to 2-14 levels?
Well, the Pats’ defense was statistically elite enough in 2019 to think that a 2020 meltdown is impossible. But then again, life without Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins might be tougher than we imagine and season-ending losses to Miami and Tennessee exposed ‘The Bogeymen’ to some extent. The ‘D’ is good but not great and they won’t win many games on their own.
And anyway, it might not even take a league-worst record to get a shot at the top of the prospect crop for 2021; with a dwindling number of NFL teams in obvious need of QBs right now (Cam Newton currently can’t find a job), earning a top-five or even 10 draft pick might be enough to maneuver in position.
It’s all about becoming a true contender again. And if the team’s best hopes of regaining that status is to maximize the 2021 draft slot, then why wouldn’t Belichick give himself a chance to hit rock bottom?
Belichick’s post-draft answer about not drafting a quarterback supports the conspiracy:
“Didn’t work out the last three days,” Belichick stated in regards to not selecting a QB among the team’s 10 selections. “That wasn’t by design. It could have, but it didn’t. Again, there are multiple ways to build your team.”
Translation: “We would have considered Tua or Justin Herbert, but they didn’t fall to us.”
Belichick continued, “We’ll see whether or not we get word of another that comes up at a different point in time. I don’t know. We just tried to do the best we could with what we had this weekend.”
Translation: “With 2021 in mind, we ingested a defensive back this year from Lenoir Rhyne like it was Lysol.”
Heck, play-caller Josh McDaniels was nowhere to be seen during the team’s draft Zoom collaboratives. Was he even needed? He was probably busy watching film on college football’s finest arms Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields.
When it became apparent this wasn’t the year for New England to pounce on an elite QB prospect, Bill was “on to the 2021 Draft.”
And there are already a few media talking heads who are hearing things that further give the Painter Plan credence, like Jason La Canfora who reports “there are plenty of people who believe Belichick is willing to take his lumps in 2020,” and Colin Cowherd who tweeted a picture of Lawrence in a Pats jersey with the caption “it’s like they have another plan or something.”
It might sound outrageous, but it’s actually quite sensible. Especially when Belichick the GM won’t fire Belichick the Coach like Indy’s Jim Caldwell got axed in 2012.
The Patriots won’t tank outright for Trevor, but Belichick is always going to maximize his chances to win. And this ‘no-trump’ bid is his best bridge play yet. In fact, Belichick’s 2020 QB experiment can’t lose.